Where’s Mom?

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been home hours ago. Maybe she’s napping.

“I’ve been texting and calling her for days and she doesn’t respond.”

First thought: She’s lying on the floor of her condo unresponsive and/ or dead.
Second thought: My sister is calling me because she’s having the same first thought. She could just go over to Mom’s and let herself in, but she’s calling me because she doesn’t want to go over there by herself. She wants me to go with her and call 911 and read the advance directive that Mom has posted on the fridge.

“She was alive on Sunday, ” I say. “She rsvp’d for Thanksgiving.”

“I know,” my sister says, ” I saw that she signed up, but she hasn’t responded to me since.” (We use an online sign up program, so everyone coming to Thanksgiving knows that Mom is bringing shrimp and her famous Vienna Cake.)

Ok. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I saw her sign up post but haven’t talked to her for a couple of weeks.. Days have passed with no word from her.
Oh wait…was this the week she was going on a bus trip to West Virginia with her church friends? Or did she already go on that trip? I talked to her about a trip…wait…that was the trip to Cape Cod. The trip where none of the other travelers drank and she felt awkward having her vodka at dinner.
More guilt. I should know if this is the week she is going to West Virginia. I should have it marked on all my calendars in bold letters: MOM IN WEST VIRGINIA.
I tell my sister, ” This might be the week she’s on a trip to West Virginia.”

“Why doesn’t she tell people these things?”

“She told me.”

“She should tell more people.”

“I think she doesn’t so that we will have to get worried and call each other.”

“Well, I am nearly hysterical with worry!” says the sister who decades ago called Mom in post-partum distress threatening to harm someone. Mom flew in her car to save the baby from a crazed mother. When she arrived, the baby was quietly settled down for a nap while my sister calmly prepared a cup of tea.

“You do have a history of overreacting.”

“Wait…she’s texting me. She’s in West Virginia. I have to go. I’m going to call her and yell at her for scaring me.”

Poor Mom. She has forgotten the most important part of hide-and-seek….stay hidden.

If you paint the door…

The front door has been a mess for years.  And for years I have said, “The door must be redone before Thanksgiving!” And Thanksgivings came and went. And the door just got more and more mortifyingly ugly.

Why, you ask, can’t you just redo the door? What is your problem? In the immortal words of Nike, “Just do it!”

If only it was so simple as refinishing a door.

The problem goes back twenty years to when we built the log home.  The thing with log homes is that you don’t know what you don’t know until you’ve (not) done it.  We didn’t know not to buy pre-hung doors.

The pre-hung doors came with frames that were narrower than the log walls.  The doors never sat right in the opening. This is one reason why the doors never cleared the entry rug. Also, the pre-hung frames came primed.  The house is natural (not painted!) wood. What do we do about that? The obvious solution–to rehang the doors–was too exhausting to contemplate after moving into the house.  So we did nothing.

Fast forward to now and we have a Project. And it is really getting done this time. Here is the project, which will hopefully clarify why it took so long to want to actually do it.

Step one. Remove the entire door and frame. This was both terrifying and exhilarating.  There was no front door on the house! Good thing we live in the middle of the woods and no one knows how to get here. The empty door  took me back to construction days and the excitement of laying the logs. Even the woody smell was fresh.  At the same time, the raw gaping lack of doorness stood in contrast to the cozy interior that developed over the years.  Oh, what a mess John was going to make!


You may be wondering how long the front door was missing. Occasionally (usually on weekends) the door was off overnight with shower curtains and plywood covering the opening to try to keep the bugs out. Boris the Bear made only the one appearance this summer and has long since meandered north. The deer don’t usually want to come in. They just stand around watching with heads cocked in curiosity. However, most days, especially during the work week, the entire door with frame was put back in place.

Step two, inspect and repair water damage. This was probably the biggest (and yes, dumbest) reason we procrastinated on the project. We were afraid of what we might find. Mercifully, damage was manageable. John replaced two rim joists by the door, some subfloor, and a bit of hardwood flooring just inside the door.

Step three. Build an entirely new door frame and sill.  The staging area for this was the front yard with the frame being lugged to and from the mudroom where it was stored before installation.

Step four. Oops. Realize that the new frame will require the entire opening to be enlarged.  Yes, cut the log walls.  This generated a good mess.  The shower curtain was cumbersome but kept most of the mess outside.

Eventually, get to the “actual” project, strip the old finish off the doors.  At first, this looked to be a tedious task. Scraping or sanding risked ruining the authentic wood grain pattern on the “genuine” fiberglass door. But John figured out that if he left the stripper on long enough, he could powerwash everything off. (It was a good thing to learn, because there are are more doors to be done at a later date!)




And finally, paint the doors. 

After all the intense labor of undoing the pre-hung error and ensuing damage, we get to the actual door. The decision to paint resulted from the prohibitive cost of replacing the fiberglass doors with solid wood.  We chose red for dramatic effect in the woods, against the log structure, and to complement the interior decor. But how to get the right red???  There are so many reds!

Crimson…with color pairings! And reflection of John removing old stain with the power washer.


Thankfully there are paint chips and other people’s mistakes. One friend in particular loved her red door until she realized that it clashed with her Christmas wreath. Therefore, while Maywood Man power washed the stain stripper off the doors, I lay paint chips all over the front step and pulled out four seasons worth of door wreaths. From there, I eliminated colors. The wreaths were immensely helpful.  They revealed which reds were too brown or too purple. Some reds looked good against the logs but made a wreath look dull.  Some wreaths made the red look dull.


I settled on crimson.  It worked with the logs. It worked with the wreaths. It looked good both outside and inside the house.  I actually went around every first floor room holding the paint chip against drapes and wallpaper.  I wasn’t looking for a match, just compatibility.

An added plus, the crimson chip had color pairings. I now have the right shade of off-white  to redo the hallway!

Because, if you paint the door…

   But that’s a whole nuther post.

We are delighted with the door, both inside and out. Before we began the project, I had bought new wreaths for fall because I was tired of the wreaths I had. However, once the doors were painted, the old wreaths looked better on the doors than the new ones!

Nougat Non-Non

I should have bought the salted caramels.  Then I would have some to share because they would not have ended up in the trash can at Paris Charles DeGaulle airport security.

We were vacationing in Port en Bessin, Normandy. After enjoying coffee and pastries in the brisk morning sun at Café du Port, we explored the weekly open-air market.

Oh la la! Cute little quail eggs! And next to them, live quail in a cage.

“Do they have names?” we asked.

“We have 600 birds, madame.  Non, we do not name them.”

Ok, moving on to the dairy vendor.  French cheeses galore.  And fresh yogurt.  In cute little glass jars! We bought…as much for the jars as for the yogurt.  (And oh, such yogurt!) On to tastings of charcuterie, where hubby John had to show the vendor photos of his charcuterie. We meandered past chickens roasting on spits and wide pans of simmering paella towards a tasting of Normandy’s famous distilled apple apératifs– calvados, pommeau and eau de vie.

CIMG9176

The calvados (apple brandy), pommeau (calvados/cidre blend), and cute little yogurt jars made it home safely!

Directly across from the calvados tasting was the nougat vendor.  He, too, was giving samples– from wheels of nougat the diameter of car tires. It was impressive.  It was really tasty. It paired surprisingly well with the calvados we had just been tasting at 10 a.m. Yeah, I’m thinking my reserves were down a wee bit.

I decided to buy some.

“How much do you want?” he asked.

I had no idea.  He was selling in metric measurement.  I’m American.  I can handle the French language, but numbers are completely beyond me.  I fumble through rough pathetic calculations.  A kilo is 2.2 pounds.  Une livre is half a kilo.  How much nougat is in a kilo?  Chocolate I can guestimate.  Salt water taffy I have a handle on.  But nougat?

I ask for une livre. He whacks off a big honkin’ piece. But I want it in two flavors. He whacks off another big honkin’ piece.  He is only half listening because this whole time he is luring in customers with free samples.  He wraps the two bricks of nougat (which now I really don’t want) but he’s busy and he’s wielding a huge knife with the skill of a guillotine.

“Ca fait 37 euros, madame.”

Thirty seven euros?  For nougat?

He did say it keeps for a whole year in the pantry. “Not in the refrigerator, madame. That will ruin it.” Ok, ok, we will enjoy it this week and take the rest home to give to family.

The week goes by with barely a nibble of nougat.  I keep forgetting it is there.

Fast forward to the airport and the now-expected body pat-down, this time by a woman who also has had both hips replaced.  She knew exactly where my body was going to ding. We laugh. One can bond with people in the most unexpected circumstances.

My carry-on bag rolls through the scanner and the guard pulls it off.

He needs to check the bag.  I can’t imagine what could be a problem in my carry-on bag.  It’s not like that time I forgot I bought a letter opener in Florence for my son-in-law.

“Madame, will you please take the knife out of your bag?”

“Knife? What knife?”

Security guard turns the x-ray screen around to reveal the shadow of a very lethal looking Renaissance dagger.

“Oh, that knife!”

Yeah, that time all Mario got was a story.  This time the guard pulls everything out of my bag…books and scarves, cahiers for my French 4 class, souvenir magnets for the fridge.  Finally, at the bottom of the bag, he finds two bricks of nougat.

They look like a kilo of plastic explosives.

He unwraps the nougat.  He sees that it is nougat, although an unusually large amount of nougat.  He smiles at me and says, “Madame, you can bring hard nougat in your carry-on.  But next time, pack the soft nougat in your checked luggage.  I’ll ask if you can keep it.”

Off he goes to ask a higher authority.  Back he comes, shaking his head.

“But you can stand here and eat it, if you want.”

So now I am tearing wads of nougat for our group of six.  I am offering nougat to total strangers, who look at me like I am a crazy person.

The bulk of the nougat ends up in the trash.  We continue toward our gate with nougat-sticky fingers.

We pass a kiosk for Ladurée, the famous Paris patisserie.  As a consolation prize, I decide to buy a box of their renowned macarons.  And there at the register, what do I see?  A beautifully wrapped single serving bar of…nougat.

Yup. I bought it. But I am not sharing. It cost me dearly.

CIMG9175

My consolation prize for the contraband nougat.

Slightly Off the Grid

Dueling blog posts, that’s what I’m envisioning.  My sister-in-law and I will  be in France for two weeks, and I just know that all the amazing décor over there will inspire endless blog posts from her over at Now That You are Home.  But someone has to chronicle the other side of the trip.  For instance:

  • Will we get to France on the Air France operated Delta flight or the Delta operated Delta flight?  The next 24 hours will tell whether the Air France pilot strike is affecting our direct flight to  Paris.
  • Will the Seine recover from its 32 year high flood levels in time for us to take our deposit-paid dinner cruise?
  • Will there be gas in gas stations to fuel the two count-em two rental cars we reserved to get us to and around Normandy?
  • Will Paris clean up the strike-induced piles of uncollected garbage before we arrive?
  • Will the Tour Eiffel be safer from terrorists with all the extra security for the Euro Cup or should be stay clear of the humongous fan zone set up on the Champs de Mars?
  • Will it stop raining?
  • And the big question: will the Wilson siblings be able to use normal people indoor voices for two whole weeks?

Inquiring minds want to know.  My mom wants to know.  I want to know.  And I don’t want to constantly re-tell the stories when we  get back home, because there is usually one version that is the best.  The others are boring repetitions.  I hope I can get the best one recorded here.

So, after a year of non-blogging, it is time to resurrect this thing with a fresh identity.  My cousin suggested the new name.  It was he who thought Maywood Living was a retirement home and said that I was neither a true pioneer nor all that reluctant, but I am slightly off the grid in many ways.  Ok.  I agree.

This not so reluctant non-pioneer is leaving the slightly off-MapQuest-grid house for adventures abroad with spouse and siblings.

Let the blog-fest begin.

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This is not a stock photo!  I took this my very own self in 2010.

Sleeping Beauty Gets Power Tools

Thanks to the miracle of 20 volt rechargeable lithium batteries, I now have my own weed whacker and hedge trimmer. It’s high time.  After 17 years in this house, the woods are reclaiming the property.   We’re close to the Sleeping Beauty scenario in which I (the Beauty) fall under a magic spell (my bed) and sleep for a hundred years (totally possible) waiting for the handsome prince (aka Maywood Man)  to hack through the enchanted forest to save me with True Love’s Kiss.

Yeah, well, I’m not exactly holding my breath here.  Thirty-five years of marriage has taught me that Maywood Man is going to spend the next 100 years fixing some tractor or other and never get around to hacking down the enchanted forest. If you don’t believe me, check out John Harp’s Ferguson tractor video, going positively viral on YouTube. (Or it will once my viral readership clicks on it! )

Meanwhile, next door, my 90-year-old mother-in-law can be heard weed whacking nearly every day.  If she can weed whack, I can weed whack. I just need the right tool.  Not one of those heart attacks on a stick…you know, the gas-powered model with a pull cord that was clearly invented by a guy trying to prove his manhood. No.  And not an electric one.  The yard is too big.  (That doesn’t stop Nana, though.  My father-in-law strings a bazillion extension cords together and she whacks all the way across the yard, somehow without whacking the cord into pieces.)

With a battery-powered weed whacker I can go all the way to the field and whack around the blueberry bushes.  It’s great! But giving me a power tool is a like giving a five-year old scissors….wow, the things to be cut! There is so much to cut that I soon realize I need power hedge trimmers.  A weed whacker can only do so much. Ah, now, with my own little girlie chain saw wanna-be, I’m like my mom with hair clippers.  Bzzz, buzz.  I begin with big slicing hacks.  Once I can see the trees, I can get a little more subtle.  Bzzz,  a little here.  Bzzz, a little there.

I think of our neighbor when we were growing up, Mr. Lapres.  Mr. Lapres was a real World War II  hero.  One of the famed Rangers of Point du Hoc, he lost a leg at D-Day.  But when I was a kid, he was a hero to my brothers by setting a stool in his driveway and buzz-cutting all the boys’ hair. He had 3 sons, I had 4 brothers, my cousins across the street had 3 boys. It was a veritable barbershop in his driveway.  He saved my brothers from my mom and the hair clippers.  Bald was not a fashion statement back then.  And bald spots will never be a fashion statement, I hope. Yeah, Mr. Lapres was a hero.

I am no Mr. Lapres.  I hack and whack and buzz until Mother Nature and  my body scream, “Stop already!”  I come inside for water.  My hands can barely hold the glass.  My arms rebel at bringing it to my mouth.  In this condition, I may starve to death.  A tractor drones in the distance.  I think I might just close my eyes for a bit.  And maybe my handsome prince will pick up all the debris I left in the yard.

http://daretodream.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c007f53ef01348491c7e2970c-pileeping beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Zzzzzzzzzz.

 

Emily and The Tree

Little Emily loves the Japanese maple in the Maywood yard.  It’s over fifty years old, planted by Emily’s great-great grandmother Retta. And it is the perfect tree for little ones to learn to climb on.

The main trunk divides into two very low to the  ground, so little legs can easily climb into it.  The next branch is a short leg swing above that, providing a perfect spot for a three year old to sit and ponder.  Of course, the natural thing to ponder is how to get up higher in the tree.

“Help me up,” she says.  “I want to go up there,” she says, pointing to a branch that is over my head and absolutely impossible for me to reach.  I can’t put her there.  The only way to get there is for her to climb there herself.

“But I want to go up there,” she says.

“You have to do it all by yourself.  You have to think about it and figure out how to do it.”

If you think that three year old Emily thought about it and climbed up to the high branch, you will be wrong.  I turned around to watch out for her little brother and–that quick–she fell out of the tree.

Boom. Right onto her elbow on a stick.  Instant adult panic that she could have broken her arm on my watch while the parents were away.  Instinctive reaction to protect her, take her away from the dangerous tree and go back to the house for a popsicle.

That’s when she amazed me.  She got up, surprised but not crying, and she climbed right back into the tree.

emily & the treeThis time she had real respect for the tree.  She carefully considered where to place each foot, how to hold on.  Her goal was no longer how to get up to that very high branch.  Her new goal was to master the distance from the ground to that first branch.  And she did.  While I diligently spotted her.

Oh, the Winnie-the-Pooh lessons to be learned from Emily and The Tree.  On the way to school Monday, I thought of how I wanted my students to be more like courageous Emily.  They tend to want me to implant knowledge in their brains, like Emily wanting me to put her on the higher branch.  However, they panic when things are difficult, fear making mistakes, and want to bail on the whole learning process when it doesn’t go as quickly as  they want. They also absolutely, positively do not focus on anything for longer than a nano-second.

“I want to tell you a story,” I began first period class.

“Are you going to yell at us?” they asked. (They are so paranoid.)

“NO! I just want to tell you a story!” (Ok, I might have yelled that a teensy bit. Sometimes their way of thinking makes me crazy.)

So I told them about Emily.

“Are you saying that learning French is like climbing a tree?”

Um, yes.  And then I told them what branch they were currently on and how we were going to climb today to a higher  branch.

“Are we going to fall out of the tree?”  they asked. (FYI, these are high schoolers and 8th graders.)

“Actually, yes, some of you are going to fall out of the tree.  But we aren’t up very high.  You will not die.”

That seemed to calm them down.  Apparently they believe that learning will kill them.

Friday, my colleagues and I attended a workshop on Teaching the 21st Century Learner.  The speaker was good and had extensive handouts of his very scripted presentation that covered all the usual blah-blah about active learning, none of which I can recall without reading the handouts.  His presentation did not teach me nearly as much as I learned from little Emily.

  • Students want to climb high.
  • Students want the teacher to put them where they want to be, but…
  • Students have to do the climbing themselves.
  • Students are afraid to make mistakes, but…
  • Students learn from their mistakes.
  • Students need diligent coaching and spotting while they climb.

I’m tempted to assign tree-climbing for homework, but they would fall from their trees, injure themselves so they couldn’t participate on their sports teams, and I would get blamed for such a stupid idea. I guess instead I’ll focus on how to better coach and spot them.  They do want to climb, and I don’t want them hurt on my watch.

 

Spring SnowBees

There are 58,000 bees in the basement.

58,000 bees

58,000 bees

Snowy Chives in March

Snowy Chives in March

It’s the end of March. We turned the clocks to “summer time” two weeks ago.  Last week the vernal equinox made it officially spring.  Today we took delivery of four new packages of bees.

And it’s snowing.

At 9 a.m.  we head to Snyder’s Apiary in Whitehall, windshield wipers brushing snow from the glass. The car thermometer reads the outside temperature as 28 degrees.  Out at the apiary, the countryside is dusted white and snow “flurries” blow sideways in the wind, whipping our faces.  Beekeepers in winter coats greet one another with snide remarks about the great weather.

Why, you ask, are we getting bees when it is so cold outside?  Because one orders bees weeks in advance and the Snyders drive down to Georgia on a scheduled day to pick up the orders in a truck.   The bees have arrived.  We have already paid for them.  We must take them home.

snowbees 2 w beeguys

BeeMan and Junior BeeMan carry 16 lbs of bees to the car.

Junior Beekeeper comes with us this morning.  He helps carry the bees to the car.  They take up the entire back seat.  A few Klingons (“cling-ons”) try to hitch a ride too, but without the advantage of the warm group hug in the bee boxes, they won’t last long.  Sure enough, back home, when the boxes are removed from the car, a few motionless bees remain on the back seat.

No, we don't buckle them in.

No, we don’t buckle them in.

Alas, it is too cold to put the new bees in their hives.  Tomorrow will be better and the rest of the week will be perfect, with temps in the 50’s and sunshine.  So for now, 58,000 girls (and a very few guys) will have a little sleepover in the mancave.

Today's conditions for the snowbees.

Today’s conditions for the snowbees.

Conditions downstairs are almost ideal.  The mancave is heated  only  by a woodstove.  With no fire going, the temp is 55.  And the only light is from the door.  With the overhead lights off, it is both cool and fairly dark.  A few bees buzz at the screens of the boxes but, for the most part, the bees quietly huddle around the caged queen and a can of sugar water.

They can’t get out.  Really.

4 pounds of bees

4 pounds of bees

The bees can stay in the package boxes for up to five days.  That includes the time they spent traveling from Georgia. Today is probably day three.  If this cold weather were to last all week, we would have a dilemma on our hands.  Fortunately, it won’t, so we don’t.  BeeMan has enough to do prepping the hives for the new residents. Cleaning out the Room of Outer Darkness to install a temporary apiary is not on the Honey Do List.

Tomorrow the bees will be installed in their new homes–outside in the bee yard where they belong.  Maybe then we can pronounce the beginning of spring.

The daffodils are trying to bring Spring.

The daffodils are trying to bring Spring.

 

 

Bees in the mancave? How cool is that?

It started as a joke at choir rehearsal.  The bitter winter killed off all the bees and some wise guy suggested that we bring them inside for the winter.

Roars of laughter as we all contemplated John and the bees watching football in his mancave.

More laughter at the death glare I shot at my husband because I know the wheels are spinning in his brain.  He has already been scouring the internet.  How do bees survive the winter in places like Idaho?  They bring the bees inside to potato cellars, which are dark (so the bees sleep) and a constant temperature (cool but not cold).

Alas, people are  researching this.  Granted, they are not researching it for the backyard beekeeper, but the information is out there…

Research is currently being conducted on controlled environment wintering. A temperature somewhere in the mid- or low-40° F (5° C) range, total darkness, ventilation to reduce excess moisture and humidity, and fall feeding of Fumidil B to suppress nosema disease are some of the major considerations. Provision for refrigeration should be considered also because sudden warming spells in late winter or early spring could result in undue restlessness and activity within the controlled-environment room. Colonies on flat-bed trailers that can be rolled outdoors or back into the room during warm or cold trends also would be desirable.

http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/overwintering-of-honey-bee-colonies/

It looks so innocent from this side of the door.

It looks so innocent from this side of the door.

Unfortunately, we have such a space.  It is the room of outer darkness.  The entry is through the death trap known as “Dad’s Workshop.”  Well, that’s what the sign over the door reads.  It’s more like a holding bin for every man-toy needed to do any man task, a conglomeration of total disorganization amidst whiffs and piles of sawdust.

The room of outer darkness is a full cinderblock basement room under the side porch.  In an earlier vision of our house, the side porch was going to be a library-sunroom but we eliminated it to save a few thousand dollars and because it was over-the-top not needed.  However, by the time the room was cut from the project, the basement was already in place.  (Don’t even ask.)

The room of outer darkness is underground with–duh–no windows, so it is dark.  Being below ground, it maintains a constant cool temperature.  It is ventilated, so air circulates.  It could  be a good wine cellar, except that we can’t keep wine in the house long enough to bother storing it way back there.  And there is very real danger involved with walking through “Dad’s Workshop.”

So, is the outer darkness the right kind of “cool” for the bees?  The main mancave, when the woodstove is not on, stays in the 50’s, which is  great for using the treadmill but too warm for hibernating bees.  Mr. Beeman would have to monitor the temp in the outer darkness to see how cool it really is. The last thing we would want is bees waking up to take a cleansing flight in the mancave while we are watching TV.

That raises another question.  Can bees last an entire winter in a cool, dark room without occasional bathroom breaks?  This winter was difficult, not just because of the bitter temperatures, but because of the extended stretch of days that never went above 50.  Bees take advantage of balmy winter days to relieve themselves.

Would the bees be better off outside with better winter protection? Rusty, at Honey Bee Suite, successfully overwintered by using a quilt board and wood chips.  Moisture in the hive is a bad as cold, and the woodchips successfully insulate and absorb moisture.  Mr. Beeman might want to check out the following link:

http://www.honeybeesuite.com/how-i-overwintered-ten-out-of-ten/

Fortunately, Winter 2015 appears to be over.  New bees arrive (we hope!) the end of this month.  That gives Mr. Beeman an entire season to research the dilemma of Winter 2016 and to maybe clean out his shop and the room of outer darkness.  Hmmm…if overwintering the bees inside gets him to clean out the basement, it just might be worth it.

Ha!

Squirrels with tiny shovels?

You know it has been a long winter when the woodland critters start digging themselves paths through the snow.

I wish I had seen them with their little shovels!

I wish I had seen them with their little shovels!

This morning, I looked out the kitchen window to see not just prints but a regular daggone pathway leading from the house to a hydrangea bush.  I figured it was a squirrel route, but squirrels (like my students) don’t have the attention span to dig a pathway.  They just leap and scurry.  No, this pathway must be the work of tunnel digging chipmunks.  In summer, the rock wall by that hydrangea is one of the entrances to their Maywood Metro System.  Yeah, I can just picture Simon, Theodore and Alvin (!!!!! ) with tiny little shovels working their way across the garden.

The snow pack  reveals a lot about who is coming and going out there.  For example, it revealed my brother-in-law’s visit to the front door the other day.  It also reveals all the routes the squirrels take to get to the house. One route is across the patio and over the abandoned hot tub where they leap on the house and into the attic to party until spring.  There are other routes that involve leaping, Tarzan-like, from trees to the roof.

Like the squirrels, the mice have no desire to shelter under a hydrangea bush in the Maywood subway system. No, they want the full comforts of home for as long as  they can get away with it.  Maywood Man keeps tossing snapped invaders and still they come.  You’d think they would  get the message that the one-way track of mouse prints leads to a cozy house of death.

Meanwhile, out yonder, the deer have gotten the message that we are turning the clocks forward tonight for Daylight Savings Time.  They have been seen traipsing across the field, brown against white, as though spring is coming, it isn’t below freezing, and they aren’t walking through nine inches of snow.  Is it the longer days or the lack of men sitting in trees that signals to them that it is safe to use their usual paths through the yard?  It sure isn’t the weather.

So it’s March, and we have no idea who remains in the beehives  because it has been too cold to look inside and they certainly have not been coming out to play in the snow.  We know at least one hive is empty and suspect that a second was not going to last the winter.  It would be great to find the two strong hives waiting for us when the temp breaks 50 later this week. Regardless of who has survived, we ordered four packages of bees for the new season.

Spring is coming.  It always does.  The chipmunks are ready.  And maybe some  bees.

Spinning Wheels

Let’s start with a poll:

When I came home yesterday, I immediately noticed footprints leading to the front door.  We hardly use the front door, so we don’t shovel to it.  Maywood Man has enough to do with plowing and there’s no reason for me to shovel a walk that no one ever uses.  There has been snow upon snow all month, so we’re just waiting for spring to deal with it.  Hence, my surprise at the footprints.  UPS knows better.

It was my brother-in-law, come to check out locations for tree stands for next year’s hunting season.  Tromping through the snowy woods in March must mean he’s going a little squirrely indoors.  However, he didn’t count on our driveway being a sheet of ice.  That’s another thing about March this year.  If isn’t snowing, it’s coating us with freezing rain.  So Jim and his truck slid down the driveway to within inches of the Weber grill that waits forlornly for warmer weather.  And then he was stuck at the bottom of the driveway with nothing to do after his woodland walk but sit with Maywood Man sipping coffee until the driveway melted.

Where was I?  At work.  With some difficulty and great trepidation, my Camry and I made it up the slippery slope so that I could go to school and manage squirrely teenagers and their Ipads.

I had a parent conference at noon.  The mother shared that her daughter seems to get overwhelmed by too much stimulus.   It’s not that she can’t focus.  She just can’t figure out where to focus.  I totally get it.  I told her about my sister, the one with Attention Surplus Syndrome. (You gotta love the acronym!) She pays attention to everything. Try riding in the car with her while she drives, notices every realtor sign, and avoids every manhold cover and pothole in the road.  She needs blinders, like a horse.

So what am I supposed to tell this mother whose daughter sits in a class with audio files and video clips and online text and online workbook and online classwork submission all in different apps while doing partner work with classmates who can’t even figure out that I want them on page 152?  She doesn’t need more stimulating activities.  She needs blinders.  I explain that the technology of the paperless classroom is actually helpful for those students who lose all their work in a crumpled mess at the bottom of their bookbags or somewhere in the hallway or maybe under their bed at home, but even as I speak, I know that often I am completely overwhelmed by the “too much” of it all. The mom and I can’t even get our days straight as we talk…the umpteen snowdays have the two of us completely befuddled.

Today, while it pours snow, I ponder remedial work for some students.  There are so many resources available to the students online that they did not have last year.  I search for something that will be helpful.  One auto-correcting activity will not work with pop-ups on the Ipad.  Another has so many publisher errors in it, that I will not use it.  I discover video activities.  I regularly use these in class with paper handouts, but–voila!– all the resources are right there on the Ipad!

Or not.

I click on the video pages to discover that the video activity link does not contain video activities.  It contains all the teacher answers to the workbook.

I’ve spent the afternoon spinning my wheels online.  I’m thinking that I need less.  I need slow.

I like the idea of sitting by the fire with a spinning wheel, simple work.  A manual task that is repetitive and yields a tangible product.  If I’m lucky, I’ll prick my finger and a  magic spell will let me sleep for a hundred years.

Behind Closed Doors

It’s another snowy day and, while Maywood Man braves the elements to keep tractors running, slays a tree for firewood, and plows us out, I need to do something more than read by the fire to justify my existence.

Pumpkin soup, venison chili, and fennel tea cookies are not sufficient offering. No, I must do something truly sacrificial.

I will clean out the bedroom closets.

Saturday while the snow pours down, I tackle my closet.  All I do is remove hangers that have nothing hanging on them.  The floor is covered with hangers.  I separate them into three piles:

  • Tangled wire dry-cleaner hangers that date to when Julie worked at a dry-cleaners and got free dry-cleaning and I sent sweaters regularly to be cleaned instead of washing them on “delicate” and spreading them out on towels on the floor to dry where the (now-deceased) cat could pee on them.
  • Plastic hangers that once hung in perfect uniformity on store racks but hang at an annoying variety of heights in the home closet.
  • Color coordinated hangers that I actually bought from Target.

The Target hangers go back in the closet.  The other hangers–just from my side of the closet–fill two paper grocery bags. (You can’t dispose of wire hangers in a plastic bag or they–the hangers– will kill you.)

Down on the floor, I say farewell to backless shoes that are no good to walk in, orthopedic shoes that supported me in my pre-bionic hip days, and any shoe that would make me cringe in shame if I were standing next to my sister-in-law Eileen.  So that clears out some space. I even have some shoes left in the closet.

I lift a pile of old sweaters, thrust once upon a time into the closet in a tidying fit and then abandoned. I discover evidence of a mouse.

Just for the record…don’t ever offer me food with black sesame seeds on it, ok?

The floor must be vacuumed. I haul the vacuum up from the family room where John used it to vacuum the filthy bits of log debris by the fireplace.  It won’t even suck up a little piece of thread.

I don’t care that John slayed a tree to keep me warm by the fire.  He busted the vacuum with wood chips.  He must fix it.

And he does.

Back in the closet I turn on the now functioning vacuum, move the suitcase, and scare the MOUSE who was hiding under it and who now scurries around the closet trying to flee the vacuum and the crazy screaming woman.

I slam the closet doors and position the running vacuum in front of them to scare the mouse from coming out.

John investigates and can not find the mouse.  I vacuum the closet. He sets a trap. I call it quits for the day on closet cleaning.

A few hours later, I send John to check the trap.  He returns with the snapped mouse.

“Is this him?”

Probably.  But how would I know if it were the country mouse or his cousin from town?

So now it is a new day.  A bright sunny above freezing day.  And John’s closet awaits.  Oh, Lordy, who knows what lurks behind those closed doors?